Baltimore City recently unveiled a streamlined Adopt-A-Lot program through which the city allows residents to apply to build a garden, park, or other community space on a vacant city-owned lot. Through the program, the city gives community gardeners and farmers a license to do certain activities on the property.
CLC has put together a short informational sheet on the legal implications of an Adopt-A-Lot license agreement, which can be found here.
Lease v. License:
One of the most important distinctions that community members must understand is that the Adopt-A-Lot agreement is not a lease. Rather, it is a license. A license is essentially permission from the City to use the site for the benefit of the community. This permission may be withdrawn at any time (after the City gives thirty (30) days’ notice) for any or no reason. If the adopter uses the lot in a manner outside the scope of the agreement, the City may withdraw permission to use it with only five (5) days’ notice.
Your Adopt-A-Lot agreement may state that, if the neighbors are using the lot as a garden, Baltimore City may use its discretion to terminate the agreement after the growing season to allow the gardeners to harvest their crops. However, Baltimore City is not required to wait until after the harvest if it chooses not to.
Another important issue to consider is that the person or group adopting the lot agrees to take on all liability “in any way connected with or arising from the activities carried on” at the property. This means that if a person is injured on the property, the injured person can sue the person or group who adopted the lot in order to cover the costs of their injury.
Because personal injury lawsuits can be very expensive, many community gardeners and farmers are now looking for liability insurance policies that will cover the work done on these plots of land.
Stay tuned for more research and information on liability insurance and urban gardens and farms.
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